Outpouring of Hurricane Relief Response Generous

Wendy Healy In the Headlines

St. Francis is often attributed with saying: “It would be considered a theft on our part if we didn’t give to someone in greater need than we are.”

These words have never rang more true than through the outpouring of support from the Province for victims of last month’s Hurricane Sandy in the Northeast.

Cleanup in the New York and New Jersey areas most affected continues, with dozens of Franciscan ministries — from Upstate New York colleges and southern churches alike — sending donations, supplies and manpower.

The Province, whose Long Beach Island, N.J., parish was severely damaged and at least six other sites without power for days, was quick to set up a relief fund.

The Franciscan Hurricane Relief Fund has been established by the HNP Development Office and is accepting monetary donations specifically for members of Franciscan ministries affected by the storm.

David Convertino, OFM, director of the HNP Development Office, said: “By now, there are many agencies, both government and private, that have been set up to provide relief and financial aid to the stricken areas. Rather than compete with these charities, it was felt that we should help those people served in our Franciscan ministerial sites who have suffered from the storm.”

As of last week, donations were beginning to come in. Financial assistance will be used for food, shelter, toiletries and any necessities not covered by insurance, and distribution will be determined by the HNP Friar Development Board, according to David. One of the biggest benefactors of this fund will likely be St. Francis Parish on a barrier island off the Jersey shore, where friars and parishioners were evacuated to the mainland and will probably not be able to return for months.

He hoped to be able to use the funds to buy gift cards from Home Depot and similar businesses, to help homeowners and churches to more easily make repairs.

“It was also felt that we would provide this relief after the friars and staff return to the island to assess their needs,” said David, who suggests that those who need help call 212-864-8799, or email hurricanerelief@thefranciscans.org.

Donations may be made via credit card by calling the Office of Development. Checks should be made payable to:
The Franciscan Friars of Holy Name Province
Office of Development – Hurricane Relief Fund
144 West 32nd Street
New York, New York 10001

Donors should include a notation stating: Franciscan Hurricane Relief Appeal. Donors can also give online.

Many people have been generous, according to several friars. “I was very touched with how a parishioner here at St. Anthony of Padua, in Camden, N.J., the poorest city in the United States, came to Karl Koenig, OFM, after Mass to offer $200 toward our second collection for hurricane victims. To put it in perspective, that’s 50 percent of a typical second collection here coming from one individual,” said Jud Weiksnar, OFM, pastor.

Manpower and Supplies
In addition to money, Sandy relief aid has come in the way of supplies and elbow grease. The Siena College community in Loudonville, N.Y., one of two Upstate New York schools sponsored by the Province, collected food and supplies at a recent basketball game. Collection tables were also set up in the dining hall and residence halls. Money was also raised at the basketball game.

Through coordination with the Franciscan Center for Service and Advocacy, Siena students have formed a Saints for Sandy effort. Students will collect money, “stuff a Siena bus” with supplies, and deliver goods on Dec. 13 to 14. Next week, the creative arts digital photography students will sell their photographs and donate the money to the Red Cross.

More than 40 members of St. Bonaventure University’s disaster relief group in Allegany, N.Y., BonaResponds, went to New York City to work with victims of the storm on the two weekends immediately following the hurricane. Founded after 2005’s Hurricane Katrina, BonaResponds is familiar with how to organize and react to Sandy’s devastation.

The volunteers spent their weekends helping homeowners in Rockaway Beach, Queens, N.Y., where the damage to houses was extensive, and some may be without power for months.

Frankie Matuszak, a junior biology major, said BonaResponds was able to help more than a dozen families by providing flood relief efforts. Among the work tackled was helping families remove furniture from houses and gutting the water-damaged areas.

BonaResponds is planning to return to New York City on the day after Thanksgiving, turning the traditional shopping day of Black Friday into Brown Friday to reflect the school’s colors. The trip will be from Nov. 23 to Nov. 25. Students, faculty, staff and alumni are encouraged to participate.

Greg Faughnan, a junior chemistry major, went on both BonaResponds trips earlier this month to the disaster area, and plans to assist with this upcoming service project, too.

“There is still so much more to do there, and people need the help very bad,” he said. “Even though the trip is over Thanksgiving, I will still have time to be at home and see my family before heading back for my third trip.”

Jim Mahar, BonaResponds coordinator, said Rockaway Beach is the likely volunteer location in New York. A trip is also possible somewhere in New Jersey if enough people sign up and there is work to be done, he said.

Help from Out of the Area
A group from St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Raleigh, N.C., is also planning on traveling to New Jersey to help the Long Beach Island parish when it becomes safe to return to the island to clean up and rebuild. The Raleigh group helped victims in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina hit, according to pastor Mark Reamer, OFM, so helping the Franciscans only seems appropriate.

In keeping with its tradition, Mychal’s Message, the non-profit group based in Pennsylvania and dedicated to the memory of Mychal Judge, OFM, who died on 9/11, sent clothing to people who lost their homes.

A package containing what the organization calls “Blessed Bloomers” included 53 T-shirts, 119 pairs of underwear, and 173 pairs of socks was sent, according to Kelly Lynch, who runs the organization. Other items such as warm coats, blankets, and food are still needed, according to Lynch. More information is available online at www.mychalsmessage.org.

Holy Name Parish’s Franciscan Community Center on the Upper West Side in New York City is donating 25 percent of the money raised at its Nov. 15 anniversary event to hurricane victims.

Readers looking for information on how to help can inquire at local ministries or contact the Provincal Office.

— Wendy Healy, a Connecticut-based freelance writer, is a frequent contributor to HNP Today. Photo courtesy of BonaResponds’s Facebook page.